Social unrest spread across northeastern Colombia on Monday as peasants from the Arauca department joined farmers from the Catatumbo region which has seen major riots for more than three weeks.
According to local media, locals put up roadblocks preventing road transport to and from the municipalities of Tame, Saravena and Fortul, and the Caricare oil field from where oil is transported through a pipeline to the Caribbean.
The roadblocks were lifted at noon after which the situation on the department’s roads reportedly normalized.
One of the Aracua protest leaders told radio station Caracol that the main motive for the protests are to show “solidarity with the peasants of Catatumbo who have been stigmatized and do not receive solutions for their complaints.”
Additionally, the demonstrators demand infrastructure investment and have said the government has failed to keep promises made after social unrest erupted in the area earlier this year.
According to the radio station, some 5,000 local farmers mobilized and were manning the roadblocks.
The social unrest in the more northern Catatumbo region have left at least 4 people killed and approximately 50 injured, and have been fiercely criticized by the national government who has said the FARC are behind the protests carried out by some 16,000 peasants.
In articles published simultaneously in newspaper El Tiempo and weekly Semana, two leading publications with strong ties to family of President Juan Manuel Santos, the leader of the strikes in Catatumbo is said to been mentioned on seized rebel computers as a “friend” of the FARC.
While both Arauca and Catatumbo are FARC strongholds with traditional weak state presence, the guerrillas have denied promoting the strike, but have expressed their support for the protests. The farmers have also denied claims their protests are promoted and infiltrated by the guerrilla group.
Locations of social unrest
- Campesinos bloquean vías de Arauca “en solidaridad con el Catatumbo” (Caracol Radio)
- Protesta de organizaciones cívicas será hasta el mediodía (Meridiano 70)
- Jornada de protestas se toman vías de Arauca (La Voz del Cinaruco)